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Store:  Word, Family Games
Genre:  Word Games


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Ages Players
6+ 2

Designer(s): James Ernest, Mike Selinker

Manufacturer(s): LoneShark, On the Spot Games

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Product Description

Kotsuku is a grid-based game with an added competitive dimension as players vie to be the first to complete a word in the grid. Players take turns placing letters in the grid one letter at a time. Each letter in the alphabet may be used once per game. The object is to be the first person to complete a word of three or more letters. Words may be vertical, horizontal, diagonal either frontward or backwards. Use your letters wisely and be sure not to leave an opening for your opponent!

Product Information

  • Designer(s): James Ernest, Mike Selinker

  • Manufacturer(s): LoneShark, On the Spot Games

  • Year: 2006

  • Players: 2

  • Ages: 6 and up

  • Weight: 98 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is a domestic item.


  • 86 re-usable grids
  • 1 dry-erase pen
  • rules

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.2 in 2 reviews

Kotsuku is a great teaching tool for the kids and a challenge for the grownups
August 01, 2006

I originally bought this game for my son to help him with his reading and writing skills. The game does this quite well for emerging readers (he's 6) because the standard grids focus on short words of 3 or 4 letters. The boxes in the grids are just the right size for little hands that might not be ready for the smaller boxes of most crossword puzzles. It is also very appealing to be able to erase the cards easily, since any card can be played over and over again with a different result each time.

The real surprise can when my wife and I squared off using one of the advanced grids. Talk about a challenge! Here, the words get bigger and the grids get more complex. Just when you think you are about to set yourself up for a win, bam! Your opponent drops in a letter to finish you off before you know what happened. The back-and-forth gameplay is very addicting. You no sooner finish one grid before you are reaching for the next.

A puzzle that should not have been a game. Too repetitive.
February 21, 2007

You’d think after all the games that I’ve reviewed that I’d learn not to judge a game by its cover, but I just can’t help it sometimes. It was with quite a bit of trepidation that I tried out Kotsuku (On the Spot Games, 2006 – James Ernest and Mike Selinker). Kotsuku is obviously playing off of the name Sudoku, which is starting to become a tired theme in board games (or anything, for that matter!); and the packaging for the game, while perhaps useful for shelf storage, is less than ideal.

I could have judged this game by my initial impressions, as I found gameplay repetitive and dull. Granted, at least one opponent enjoyed the game, but I couldn’t see past the fact that the game simply rewards the person who doesn’t make a mistake and the person who has the higher repertoire of three-letter words. Combined with a less than lackluster presentation, I can say that the game is interesting for a few moments, and is highly portable, but isn’t one that I would recommend for anybody.

The game is for two players, who take one card and an erasable marker. The card shows a grid of squares (often five by five, but sometimes in other shapes – such as a “T”, heart, etc.) with three or four letters printed in different spots. The English alphabet is printed at the bottom of the card, with the printed letters crossed off. One player goes first, with play then alternating for the remainder of the game.

On a player’s turn, they simply write one of the remaining letters in an open space on the grid, then cross it out on the bottom of the card. The first player to spell a word of three letters or more – in any direction – wins. That’s it.

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: The box is meant to be hung on a rack in a store – and combined with an opening front flap that never closes again – is rather annoying to store and use. It’s simply a tuck box that holds the card and small pen. On the flip side, the cards are very nice quality – thin enough to easily move around, but thick enough to stand a good deal of pressure. The pen (nice to be included) easily wipes off.

2.) Rules: This is a very sore point of the game. The rules are five sentences printed on the swinging front of the box. Even though the game is simple, this is simply not enough – no questions answered, not enough here. Sure, I figured most everything out, but it would have been nicer to have at least an insert card with the instructions on them. The game itself is easy to teach, since the same thing happens every game.

3.) Strategy: Here is where the game breaks down – every single game that I’ve played has turned out exactly the same. First players place the rarest letters into the grid: the “X”, the “Q”, the “J”, etc. Then the remainder of the letters are placed into the grid, with players trying not to set up the other player for a three-letter word. I have yet to see anything other than a three-letter word win the game, which obviously gives an advantage to the player who knows more three-letter words. And anyone who has consulted a Scrabble dictionary lately can tell you that there are a ton of obscure three letter words that most people don’t know about. Therefore, every game that has been won has been by an obscure word and/or a mistake by one player who didn’t see that they put two letters together that could make a word.

4.) Grids: Each card has two grids on it – one five by five grid with three letters on it, and one “Deluxe” grid with other letters on it – usually spelling a word that has something to do with the shape. You know what? All of these grids play out exactly the same. I guess you only need one card to enjoy the game! It’s a game that looks much more diverse that it really is.

5.) Fun Factor: My wife enjoyed the gameplay that involved the first person making a mistake losing. Me – I abhorred it, because it was the same repetitive thing happening over and over again. I don’t enjoy winning a game because I happened to know a small obscure word (this is why I don’t like Scrabble), and with no randomness in the game – other than slight grid changes and letters used – each game plods along at a glacial, boring pace.

I tried to adjust the rules to make the game more enjoyable, using only four-letter words (games lasted forever!), forcing all letters to be adjacent to each other (boring) – and nothing worked. It’s a fast game, it’s a portable game, and it’s a word game – something that might make it interesting to puzzle enthusiasts. Yet I found it mundane and uninteresting – even from a puzzle perspective. There was no satisfaction in winning and no diversity. Kotsuku is not a game that I can recommend – unless you like repetition.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games”

Other Resources for Kotsuku:

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